The Baz Luhrmann-directed film hits theaters June 24.
Celebrity biopics are always a tall task for the actor who takes on the role -- even more so if the subject is a beloved, iconic performer who became perhaps even more famous after their untimely death. So it's no surprise that Austin Butler had more than a few nerves when it came time to take on the role of Elvis Presley in the upcoming Baz Luhrmann-directed biopic.
"I was nervous and afraid of the big numbers with tons of extras, to go out there and perform in front of a lot of people," Butler admits in behind-the-scenes footage from Elvis, which hits theaters on June 24. "I was filled with terror at that idea."
Smartly, Butler consulted a peer about his nerves: Rami Malek, who won an Academy Award in 2019 for his portrayal of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
"He said, 'You know what? Those days will probably end up becoming your favorite days,'" Butler remembers, sharing Malek's hindsight from his role. "He could not be more right about that... I was terrified every time before going out there... But Elvis said it as well. Those first couple songs, once you do them and you realize OK, nobody's going to throw a rock at me, it's all OK."
"Then you feel that connection and you feel how you can play with the audience," he adds. "There were days I didn't want the day to be over."
"When he came out on stage he was electrifying!" Hanks raves in the clip. "I think he had to do it 30 times, with everything that was going on, and you could not take your eyes off of him every single time."
"You just wanted to see him do it again and again and again and again," he continues. "Part of that is certainly channeling, part of it is the drive that Austin has, and always has as an actor. But there's also a huge amount of faith that he had in the process and in himself that is not unlike Elvis."
So how did Butler prepare for the part, which Luhrmann says he was "born" to play -- casting him even over stars like Harry Styles, who was also rumored to be in contention for the part? He got obsessive.
"I said, 'I'm just gonna drop everything and I'm gonna obsess. I'm going to allow myself to obsess," he recalls. "And so I just started reading and watching everything I could on his life and on his friends and on his relationships and listened to only his music."
Butler even reveals that he started studying for the part before auditioning! "I just treated it as if I already had the job," he shares "This was January, two years ago, and then by about February, they hadn't even started auditioning yet, and I sent Baz a video of me playing the piano and singing 'Unchained Melody.'"
After getting the part, Butler got to go the extra mile with Elvis' talented hair, makeup and prosthetics teams, who helped him lock down the physical look of the role.
"It helps massively. when you look in the mirror and you start to see the transformation," he raves. "It makes you feel different. It really does."
Hanks also wears prosthetics to play Parker, an eminently fascinating character, whom Hanks describes as a "fascinating amalgamation of carney, wicked smart businessman, dime-squeezing skin flint, but also a pioneer in a big type of show business that did not exist until Elvis Presley came along."
"There was a standard kind of like manager-performer kind of [relationship]: 'Let me tell you what we're gonna do, kid, we're gonna go like this,' and the Colonel, the Colonel was not that," Hanks admits.
But while Parker left a complicated legacy, he did do at least one thing very right in recognizing that Presley would be a superstar.
"That's not just lightning in a bottle -- that's a comet smashing into the planet Earth, and it's altering the landscape and the climate," he praises. "Elvis did that."
"He was the American dream, really," Butler agrees.
Elvis is in theaters June 24. Check out the trailer below!